The Civic Trust has expressed grave concern about aspects of the Licensing Bill currently working its way through Parliament. The Trust has asked affiliated societies to contact the Government to make known their concerns, too, if they have any. The Ipswich Society has written to the Minister responsible, Kim Howells, with copies to our two MPs and others.
The key section of our letter is as follows:
"Pubs and clubs may create noise and disturbance into the early morning. In the fulness of time we accept that the abolition of 'licensing hours' may well result in an improvement, in that the English predilection for 'vertical drinking' may well be a consequence of having a deadline of Iclosing time'. However, we fear that in the short and perhaps medium term, unlimited hours may well exacerbate the problem of noise and disturbance ... The purpose of this letter is to alert you to our concerns, particularly about late night drinking as opposed to evening drinking and to seek assurances that full weight will be given to the environmental impact on our towns."
Mr Howells replied that transferring licensing powers from the magistrates to local authorities would go along with powers to consider the cumulative affect of awarding licences in a given area, and he took heart from police support for the abolition of traditional closing times. There does seem to be some recognition that the English have a drink problem! But the Society still wonders whether this is the right way to deal with it.
[Editor: Since then, it has become apparent that in Ireland their liberalised licensing laws have failed to effect a change from a pub culture to a more continental-style cafe and bar culture. On the contrary, alcohol consumption has increased by nearly 50% over the past decade. The Irish Government is hastening to reverse this trend - nobody under 18 will be allowed in any bar after 8 pm, under 21s will be required to carry ID and closing times are to be brought forward!]